ON BRAVERY

Courage isn’t the absence of fear. Courage is feeling the fear and stepping out anyway.


What is that makes one brave? Many define bravery as a trait that seems to be only perceivable from the outside. It is as though when one turns inwards there is no way he could think of it.It is as though a restriction existed on that adjective to be used as in self-descriptions.

Did we cease to see bravery as a quality at some point? Did our society condition us to assume that all paths were predestined to be filled with sorrows and suffering? Did we thus get accustomed to the idea that a human being is inherently a warrior, designed to overcome life’s harshest obstacles? A concept that would also happen to be the explanation behind the fight or flight response.

We have come to deprecate the value of courage as if it were one that most people own. Yet, truth is, although anyone can acquire it, one is not magically born with it. Perhaps, to find courage, as we phrase it, is the only approach to cope with unendurable experiences.

Oftentimes, we hear the recurrent line of thought in the testimony of individuals who have triumphed over the greatest hardships: ‘I did not choose to be this way, to keep going, I simply had to, it was my only chance of survival and I just perceived it as living.’ Strength of character does not arise overnight. It mainly requires heaps of efforts and every so often painstaking actions.

BCN, May 2020, GC

One is more likely to hide behind all of his strengths than publicly acknowledging his former battles and showing off.It is almost as though we carried a sense of shame if our past victories were painlessly confessed. Years ago, believing that the attention-seeking aspect prevailed most of the time, I used to be continuously suspicious of people who were, for instance, openly dwelling upon their personal troubles in the media. Perhaps this was merely the result of a very long time of bottling feelings up and not being able to confess my own issues.

I came to the realization that not everyone has to deal with the same problems. Everyone will someday encounter the same amount of pain than his peers but, for now, one may have no clue what this affliction means. And this is fine. Life is not linear as some like to consider it. As the French say, la roue tourne.

Perhaps this is the reason why courage can only be gained. At some point in our life, we all should get to proclaim ourselves ‘brave’ and we shall accept the label without guilt or embarrassment. Nevertheless, some beings still encounter courage more often than others and it becomes a practice – a ritual, a faith, a way of life. The only way.A part of their mind, body and soul.

Then, we warriors of light must be prepared to have patience in difficult times and to know that the Universe is conspiring in our favor even though we may not understand how. 

Paulo Coelho


And sometimes, bravery is the countless other things that we tend not to ponder on.

Bravery is believing despite all the bumps encountered on the road. Bravery is hoping beyond belief. It is constant perseverance. It is confronting fear, be it knowingly or not. Bravery is accepting to be honest and therefore vulnerable no matter what. Bravery is being yourself in all circumstances. It is remaining a genuine being at all times. Bravery is moving on, going forward, through thick and thin. It is catching the last beam of light in the darkness. And at times, being brave merely means being aware, in the bleakest moment,that you have held on thus far and realizing how brave you are.

what makes you brave?

La vie ne vaut rien (reprise). Tim Dup.

ON SUFFERING

‘There is no real joy without suffering’, academician, writer and poet François Cheng proclaimed. ‘The writer has to bear all the world’s misery on his shoulders in order to transform it, transfigure it into light’, he continued. This is the greatest gift of the writer, as he emphasized in his discourse. Indeed, one has to be aware of the cruelty, the wrongdoings and the gloom surrounding him so as to overcome it.

Is pain our doom, at times more prominent in certain people’s lives than others? This inevitable emotion is one that every being undergoes at some point in their existence and to a certain extent. It is universal. It is human.

A few years, Andrew Solomon, during a conference, tackled the correlation between pain and identity. Is there an explanation that can make sense of pain? What is the meaning of the mass murders that have happened throughout history? The reason behind these actions seems meaningless? It is certainly difficult to find the meaning of senseless enterprises undertaken by an individual who comes across as mad as a hatter. In Solomon’s words, it is thus about ‘forging meaning rather than trying to find meaning’.

“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

Haruki Murakami

Suffering is inescapable — this is the grand lesson that people who have experienced the most traumatic episodes that life can generate.

‘How did you make it through all these terrible events?’, one often asks in awe.
‘Well, there was no other choice for me than to endure and survive it’, the latter would reply.

Oftentimes, in a child’s mind, the idea of injustice lives on. ‘Why do these unfortunate occurrences keep happening to me and to my family?’, more than once I thought to myself. ‘Why is life so unfair?’ And yet, after a while, one learns the value of suffering, otherwise, it would be purposeless to carry on.

Suffering thus forges identity. It allows us to observe the full spectrum. For without the darkness, there would be no light. Without the cold, there would be no warmth. Without death, there would be no life. Without negativity, there would be no positivity. No experience would be unique. No happiness could be utterly felt without having ever encountered sadness.

It is the path that one walks on over the years that grants one with lessons of strength, humility, and humanity. Indeed, none of these words would have been put down a page if I had never gone through this personal journey of torment and discovery. In my early state of lostness, I looked up to one of the great Hemingway’s quotes: ‘In order to write about life, you must first live it’. Thus, today I write for I know of the world’s misery, I reminisce about the agreeable memories and fantasize about unpredictable future in writing and the passion reminds me that I am living, and for far too long in the past, I did not.

There are countless more lessons in a life lived through pain than in an uneventful and quiet life. There is gratitude brought out of the bleakest moments. There is the acceptance of life itself and all that it embodies — as we say, the good, the bad and the ugly. There is the acceptance of the impermanence of things. This is the acceptance of the human condition.

The only truths of hardships are awareness and gratitude.

which hardship has shaped you the most into the person you are now?

Indochine. La vie est belle.

ON GIVING

“For it is in giving that we receive.”

St. Francis of Assisi

Guidance and assistance are the most precious of human gifts. As one oftentimes finds him or herself entangled in a web of troubles, having known hardship and struggles, lived through untold obstacles, one learns the importance of giving. For without the caring help of a peer, one could have not made it through.

***

Three years ago, my family and I were evicted from our social housing. It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, a mentally harsh day. Getting evicted, deprived of my “home”. Witnessing the multiplied struggles my parents had to endure without being able to do much. Seeing all of our belongings being packed as rubbish. Observing years of memories vanishing in the blink of an eye. Not having a house for months. And also living such a nightmare without people to confide in, people to help me escape from this emotional nightmare at times, not any close friend of mine. However, during that time, we were surrounded by some very inspiring people who showed me the beauty of art in the dark. We wrote quotes on our now former metal-covered door about ‘doors closing’ which was the beautifully therapeutic idea of one of our neighbors. She lent me “The Prophet” by Gibran which became a profound source of inspiration as well. She gave us her time to fill in all the paperwork. We had family friends who opened to us the door to their house. They give us their time, sometimes money, attention, and commitment to help us out. Without these people, I wonder where we’d be right now.

“We rise by lifting others.”

Robert Ingersoll
Barcelona, Nov. 2019, GC

Oftentimes, the concept of giving means much more than merely sharing material belongings. There are, indeed, many different ways of achieving that charitable act. For, giving one’s time, one’s love, one’s soul without limit is a deeply personal yet universal action. It is, in fact, during the darkest hours that one can observe the brightest stars.

***

It was an odd Christmas day for me. The wind was softly blowing. The sun had already set in the very early evening. Sitting on a beach, a book in my hands, I was feeling a little worn out. I had pondered on the way I was adjusting to this new life when this old man came talking to me. I told him I couldn’t understand what he was saying and only caught a few words. He kept on talking to me in this language I could barely speak. It made me smile. I managed to say somehow that I was here on my own. What I got from his final words was that with such a smile I would undoubtedly make friends over here. This episode reminded me that connection can be one smile away, whatever the barriers. This man had given me some of his presence, his enlivening words of encouragement and precious time. Most-likely unknowingly, he generously taught me a lesson of wisdom that stuck with me to this day. This was his way of giving.


Giving a part of oneself is thus the reminder that we were all born equal, susceptible to endure the very same human experiences. As one writes to share his perception of the world he lives in, one is also willing to give a part of himself, selflessly disclosing his true self to the audience. We read books and watch movies because we relate to the emotions expressed and highlighted by the plot. We share the same stories, slightly differentiated by the varying personas and the interchangeable life phases.

One ought to never forget all of the helping hands he ever touched, show constant gratitude for the kindest souls he met and never cease to lend his own hand even to the oddest stranger encountered. For no one ever knows what the oh so uncertain future will bring.

what does giving bring you?

Song for someone. Vertical Horizon.

ON EXILE

“Is it possible that existence is our exile and nothingness our home?”

Emil Cioran

In a recent interview on French television, author Velibor Čolić offered the audience his entrancing interpretation of exile as follows: ‘I did not come, I stayed ; exile is more about staying than leaving’.

Indeed, we leave as emigrants but we stay as expatriates. Is the reason why we fled our home country ever more important than the reason why we choose to stay? Wouldn’t the positive aspects prevail over the negative ones?

***

I never planned to leave London. The city had for so long puzzlingly mesmerized me and deeply transformed me. I had learned life-changing lessons of wisdom and growth in a place I so fondly cherished. Its cosmopolitism also gave me sublime encounters with people coming from all corners of the globe. Whilst my time in the British capital endowed me with the most genuine of friendships, its openness enticed me to discover other cities and countries. I might have loved being all settled there, I had to embrace change and the possibility of falling in love with countless other places. 

Was this just another exile? I do not believe so, for every time I have the chance to come back, I still feel home, safe and sound on cloud nine.  

Perhaps, I had always planned to leave my home country. Although I never believed that I would be able to do it so young, I always knew. I had never felt truly at home in Paris, somewhere none of my family came from. I had come to dislike the metropolis profoundly. Moreover, I had always been torn by the fact that my father was from another country, which in the end I did not know well — something I regretted very much. I had kept a dream of London for a long time since childhood, for a reason I never grasped. And as I fell in love with the city, I later became bewitched by the concept of expatriation. 

This certainly was the only real exile of my life. Leaving, on grounds of exhaustion from not belonging. 

Verona, July 2019, GC

I never planned to live in Spain. In fact, when I was younger, I loathed the fact that people would make connections about me and the Iberian peninsula as if I had any lineage from that part of the world. This was due to the fact that half of my family was from the other part of the Mediterranean, Italy. For instance, in school, I had chosen to learn Italian as a second language as an act of rebellion against the majority of pupils who enrolled in the Spanish class. Yet, for some reason, I ended up here, along this charming and lively coast. 

***

Traveling is somehow a quick getaway, a break from your day-to-day life. One discovers a new town from a, usually, brief period of time and through the lens of the tourist, the foreigner, the stranger. Becoming an expatriate is very different. One has to make himself belong to the community, to learn the local rituals and lifestyle. It means to accept all the differences that exist with what one has been accustomed to. The longer one stays, the better one actually gets to know the culture.

Thus, traveling as much as possible is not a dream of mine, rather a past time. However, a dream of mine is to live in as many different places as possible. There’s one challenge to accept: the one of leaving everything behind, be it good or bad, and starting over, taking a leap into the unknown. I never thought I would end up living in sunny Barcelona, Spain. Perhaps I’ll stay here for a year, just the time for me to learn the Castilian, or perhaps I’ll be bored soon enough. I am not setting any deadlines, for I let everything go with the flow. One year on? I have no clue where I will be. 

This is the magical part of life (and open borders as well). You meet people from all over the world and someday you suddenly realize you wish to move elsewhere. Perhaps, five years from now, you’ll be living on an island you never even knew existed or a continent on which the climate you never believed would fit your lifestyle. If you’re open-minded enough, you accept the core value of life: change and evolution; and thus you trust in letting go to embrace new ventures.

In the end, everywhere you go, you bring a part of the place where you used to live — and this place, you will forever be able to call it home.

Una casa al mare. Thegiornalisti.

what is your exile?

ON TIMING

“Time is an illusion, timing is an art.”

Stefan Emunds

How did you feel when the school year was coming to a close and it was time for the goodbyes and the embraces? When the plane was about to take off and you could look through the window after spending times of wonder over there, when it was your last day of work and you barely had realized how you had so keenly bonded with your colleagues, when the time had come for you to give back the keys to your house — how did you feel when it was time to leave?

Certainly, the exhilaration of new ventures coming ahead must have prevailed in those very moments, for otherwise your being would’ve remained stuck there, in this uncanny place filled with nostalgia and bittersweet feelings. At times, it also occurs as the only option available. Indeed, it seems so elementary to get caught up in our technology-driven world. Twirling, incessantly — the planet we found ourselves on. Interminable gazes, the perpetual echo of modern-age machinery, the back-and-forth mobility of the people. Unstoppable is the definition of time. Time flies, as the saying goes.

As I boarded on the infamous cross-channel railway a few years ago, with a strangely light suitcase by my side, I felt a sense of excitement and eagerness. The last final straw had passed. At last, I was leaving behind nineteen years of troublesome experiences. I was fleeing this city which for so long I had believed I cherished. I was taking off with all the scars inflicted by what I had endured. In that respect, it was the easiest goodbye I had ever had to make, the easiest chapter that I was closing. For the first time, I could let go, peacefully, without any remorse or sentimentality.

Paris, Aug. 2019, GC

**

“There comes a time in your life when you have to choose to turn the page, write another book or simply close it.”

Shannon L. Alder

Yet, what happens when the sky gets brighter? Everything is not so wretched, hope is restored and life seems to finally make sense.

It’s like the blooming of the flowers after spring’s arrival in March. Our mindset seems to have shifted. A newborn focus emerges. Novel opportunities arise. One becomes aware of the possibility of change, of the promise of freshness. Perhaps, it is in fact in all of that resides the definition of change itself.

***

This epiphany came forth around that time last year. Once more, it had hit me unexpectedly hard and I perceived my life as if it was all in shambles. After some time, for we say that time heals all wounds, my observations seemed to get clearer again and I lingeringly recovered. I had become aware that, although I had just gone through some grim times, this place had granted me with countless more opportunities than my home country ever had. I had gone back to ‘normal’. The feeling of belonging had returned to me. And yet, I realized that I still wanted to leave. I was feeling utter joy reminiscing the last years in this city, and sometimes an ounce of nostalgia too whilst walking past some memorable places. Nonetheless, I felt ready to leave it all behind. Leaving behind the delightful encounters, the familiar rainy streets and all of the memories. When I thought about it, it had been a rosy-painted time all along living there. I was ready to let go. It was the time, and it was about time as well.

After a while, I did. I packed my many more suitcases and left. It was a leap into the unknown for one who had always had such a hard time saying goodbye to people, places and even things. There was no grand wave of nostalgia hitting me, as I had expected, and barely any tears.

There was only the reminiscence of elating moments, the rejoicing of upcoming reunions, and the trusting that time is our ally.

Time heals the wounds and clears the mind. And thus, timing is fate in disguise.

For, only time will tell, timing shall, in the end, connect all the dots.

do you trust in perfect timing?

Lost in my mind. Rüfüs du Sol.

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ON FEAR

“Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”’

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you ever been paralyzed? Have you ever bailed right before doing something you had longed for and yet, at the very moment you were going to take action, felt so overwhelmed that you could not move forward anymore? I did, umpteen times, when I was younger, encounter that dismaying feeling. It was as though, submerged, my being was suddenly stuck, as if it were drowning in a sea of fears. 

Letting the fear take control over me was the easy way out, as I believed I had no willpower stronger than the fear I was facing, whatever that may have been. This was up until the end of my first year at university. For summer 2016 did not only turn my life around but also transformed me. I referred to it as ‘The Day It All Came Crashing Down’ in a piece in which I shared this harrowing episode of my life, in an attempt to be as concise and raw as possible to convey my feelings. There was still some anger, strain, and shame at the time I wrote it, three months after the situation was seemingly sorted out. And it is only later on that I realized what that day had really meant for me.

The long hours of this 28th of July represented a paralysis. It was being powerless, facing such a shock, while witnessing these actions we could not defy in any sense. The immobility was striking. There was absolutely nothing we could do at that moment. 

I never wanted to feel so impuissant ever again. As I fully grasped the meaning of that day, I had my own very real epiphany about myself. It occurred to me again the countless times I had described myself as a ‘puppet to my own life’, for all I seemed to be doing was witnessing life happening to me, whilst I was staying in my comfort zone, avoiding as many opportunities as I saw appearing before my very eyes. Eventually, with that realization, I knew. I was finally becoming aware of all that it entailed. 

All in all, this meant I had to face my fears, each and every one of them. 

Portsmouth, May 2019, GC

Barely a few weeks went by. I packed my suitcases, wrote a note to myself that however daunting this experience might be I would survive, and I never looked back.

Perhaps I took the best step possible to move away from my fears. For, over time, even though I was lacking a great deal of self-confidence, I did overcome the most trivial of fears, and learned how to handle each kind of fear. From moving abroad on my own to conquering numerous other fears, I have learnt that fear can be a powerful source of joy. How exciting to do something that scares you. How empowering to achieve it. How encouraging to realize that the best things can happen to you out of fear.

***

Fear holds one hostage from the myriad of potential outcomes. 

Fear is the disguise that self-esteem issues take.

Fear is the voice of doubts and insecurity in your head.

But fear is also what leads one to a state of enlightenment. 

Fear is the path of progress. 

Fear is the symbol of the first step boldly taken.

Fear has the power to turn everything around.

Fear is the embodiment of your former self, as well as the creation of your future self.

What if you asked yourself: would I rather be stuck with my present self or be aware that there is a new me waiting on the other side of fear?

Too often we praise the so-called fearless ones. Yet, fear is human. Indeed, one does not have to be fearless, but merely use their fears cleverly.

Fear is my driving force. And it can be yours too. 

Pomme. Anxieté.

what is your greatest fear?

ON STORYTELLING

“The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”

Muriel Rukeyser

It was on a special Monday morning for me. The sun had not yet risen. The willingness of getting was not quite present. The lack of sleep was heavily discernable. And most of all, the fear and anxiety of attending yet another new yoga class, alongside strangers again, seemed almost irrepressible. Oddly enough, some force took me back to reality and brought me closer to my beliefs. Being able to overcome my fears had constantly been my strength. As I succeeded in facing this latest challenge, we all ended up bonding over breakfast afterward.

What seemed very near to be a daunting idea to me led up to become yet another grand opportunity to share stories with like-minded people. For minutes I had felt ill-at-ease, barely speaking up, as if I were indrawn. Suddenly, as a flower blooms through watering and sunbeams, I had opened up. I, too, was sharing my own story with my companions. Again, I felt the empowering impact of storytelling.

What is all the meaning behind storytelling? Is it merely a way to express our craving for being heard? Does it only reflect the means for us to categorically display our imprint in the world, and to make it so indelible? What is the significance of telling stories?

Paris, Nov. 2019, GC

In the words of Joan Didion, ‘we tell ourselves stories in order to live’. I utterly believe, indeed, that we need stories. We need them to connect. We need them to feel like we belong. We need them to feel human, as simple as it sounds.

We often suppose that storytelling is the mere fact of conveying our own story with our peers, be it through a written piece, a song or a movie. But I believe it is much more than that. It is sharing a part of ourselves and seeking someone to relate to our discourse. Storytelling is feeling free to share the uncanny, the eerie, the joyful bits of our experiences, whether it is through fiction or not. It means accepting the reactions. Storytelling is being open to receive, to learn from another perspective.

All in all, storytelling is sharing. It is creating a bond — between author and reader, conversationalist and listener. It is exchanging experience. It stands both for narrating and listening, for there is no story without an audience. Of course, this applies deeply to the practice of writing, as well as all forms of art. We do write to connect, with the intention of creating a bond that will hold meaning. But as human nature is, all of our communication revolves around that principle. As listeners, we are endowed with the ability to see and sense the world through someone else’s lens and thus acquire knowledge, clarity, and awareness. Whilst as storytellers, we give a part of us, magnanimously and freely. Indeed, after any worthwhile conversation, we are provided with the opportunity to regain a sense of self, or even somehow reconnect to our higher self.

Stories build bridges. When the story ends and the teller’s voice is silenced, the bridge between teller and listener remains.”

Elaine Blanchard

As the discussion with my instructor drew to a close, having opened up about my journey and heard about hers, I felt a new energy. It was as though as I was anew, feeling refreshed. The meaning of a meaningful, deep conversation sprung to my mind. More than learning from someone else’s experience, I recalled my own story. It kindled in me more confidence. And thus, I knew…

Storytelling shall prompt in each and every one of us inspiration. Conversations shall set up a spark in us. They are an opportunity to light up our minds with great ideas and insights. Storytelling, as a matter of fact, a path for us to uplift one another.

Ecris l’histoire. Grégory Lemarchal.

do you feel the compelling power of both fictional and true stories?